June 2019

June 2, 2019

Thoughts From The Cottage

Dear Friends

Jesus’ last words to his disciples prior to his Ascension to his rightful throne in heaven were “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1 v 8) according to Luke or “go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28 vv 19/20) according to Matthew. We celebrate this command, or commission at Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Which version we prefer matters little. Both sum up the purpose of the church. It is to be an evangelistic body witnessing to Jesus throughout the world in both word and deed. This commission of Jesus has been handed on from generation to generation of disciples and has now come down to us. This, according to Jesus, is the purpose of the church. True he told us to do all sorts of other things including loving everybody, healing the sick, sharing bread and wine, meeting the needs of the poor, repent, follow him, honour God’s law, do not lust or judge, challenge injustice, honour marriage, love God and be perfect. In fact there are fifty commands of Jesus to his followers, all of which, according to Matthew we must obey. They are not optional, they are imperatives, and they include telling others about Jesus.

Some people like to label churches using such words as evangelical, liberal, traditional, radical, contemporary. This is absolute nonsense (yes I know that’s a strong phrase but read on). A church has to be all these things if it is to be true to Jesus. It has to be evangelical in that it must proclaim the gospel to those who do not know Jesus as Saviour. It has to be liberal in that it must welcome all people and not judge them for their looks, lifestyle or anything else. It has to be traditional in that it must honour and respect Christian teaching right back to the book of Genesis. It has to be radical in that it must both adopt a social work programme that meets the needs of the local community and offer a discipleship programme that helps everyone become more Christlike and more faithful to God. It has to be contemporary so that it relates to all people in the community around the church. Yes, it is a tall order but Jesus never promised us an easy life, he simply promised to be with us throughout life.

As we celebrate Ascension and Pentecost we need to spend time reflecting on just what Jesus has called us to be and to do. We cannot celebrate his Ascension if we are not prepared to accept him as our King and proffer our unswerving obedience to him. We cannot celebrate Pentecost if we are not prepared to accept all the spiritual gifts that God offers us and use them to grow his kingdom and bring glory to his name. We cannot call ourselves Christian unless we try to do all this. We cannot call ourselves a church if we are not prepared to be evangelical, liberal, traditional, radical and contemporary.

Ian Ring